From the list on literary women you’ve never heard of.
Who am I?
I’m a historian of Southern Africa who is fascinated by questions of visibility and invisibility. I love probing beneath the surface of the past. For example, why is this person famous and renowned, but that person isn’t? To me, recognition and reputation are interesting to scrutinize as social categories in their own right, rather than as factual statements. I’ve written two books focusing on the history of religious expression in Southern Africa, and my most recent book is a biography of the forgotten South African writer and politician Regina Gelana Twala.
Joel's book list on literary women you’ve never heard of
Why did Joel love this book?
I find the notion of the “unknown” writer quite problematic.
Most of the time, at least somebody has, in fact, heard of the writer. So by whom is this writer unknown, and for what reasons has their reputation been erased?
The South African writer Miriam Tlali – the first South African woman writer to publish a book in English - is a case in point.
Tlali’s novel Muriel at Metropolitan (about an office worker in apartheid Johannesburg) was banned when it was published in 1975 for its critical portrayal of white South Africans.
Tlali was subsequently ignored by her literary (almost entirely male) peers, dismissed as offering “reportage” rather than “art”. Yet since 2017, Tlali’s work has been celebrated.
The question of whether a writer is “known” or “unknown” is complex with many layers to consider, including the prejudices of racism and sexism.